Shin Hae Chul (신해철) - Songs of Hope and Affirmation

Man on The Road

Shin Hae Chul (신해철, 1968-2014) was a versatile and popular rock musician who has written and performed numerous songs as a solo artist as well as with such bands of his as Next. He was surely a one-of-a-kind artist who had a keen interest in social issues apart from his music. First and foremost a rock musician, he also dabbled in many other mainstream and experimental genres of music. Writing all the lyrics and music himself, he was an energetic musician constantly endeavoring to one-up himself, always willing to lend a hand as a mentor or as a friend to peer artists and proteges, and ready to speak out about various political and social matters. To the dismay of his fans, he fell victim to a medical malpractice and died in October, 2014.

그저 걷고 있는 거지

난 한번쯤은 저 산을 넘고 싶었어

그 위에 서면 모든 게 보일 줄 알았었지

하지만 난 별다른 이유 없어 그저 걷고 있는 거지

해는 이제 곧 저물 테고

꽃다발 가득한 세상의 환상도 오래 전에 버렸으니

또 가끔씩은 굴러 떨어지기도 하겠지만

중요한 건 난 아직 이렇게 걷고 있어

I Am Just Walking

I wanted to climb that mountain once someday

Thought I'd see everything ahead if I stood on top of it

But then I do not have a particular reason, I am just walking

The sun is going to set soon

And I gave up on flowery fantasies about the world long ago

So while I will surely fall down on the wayside at times

What matters is that I am still walking as now

나에게 쓰는 편지

난 잃어버린 나를 만나고 싶어
모두 잠든 후에 나에게 편지를 쓰네
내 마음 깊이 초라한 모습으로
힘없이 서있는 나를 안아 주고 싶어
난 약해질 때마다 나에게 말을 하지
넌 아직도 너의 길을 두려워하고 있니
나의 대답은 이젠 아냐

언제부턴가 세상은 점점 빨리 변해만 가네
나의 마음도 조급해지지만
우리가 찾는 소중함들은 항상 변하지 않아
가까운 곳에서 우릴 기다릴 뿐

이제 나의 친구들은 더이상 우리가 사랑했던
동화 속의 주인공들을 이야기하지 않는다
고호의 불꽃같은 삶도 니체의 상처 입은 분노도
스스로의 현실엔 더이상 도움될 것이 없다 말한다
전망 좋은 직장과 가족 안에서의 안정과
은행구좌의 잔고액수가 모든 가치의 척도인가
돈 큰집 빠른 차 여자 명성 사회적 지위
그런 것들에 과연 우리의 행복이 있을까
나만 혼자 뒤떨어져 다른 곳으로 가는 걸까
가끔씩은 불안한 맘도 없진 않지만
걱정스런 눈빛으로 날 바라보는 친구여
우린 결국 같은 곳으로 가고 있는데

때로는 내 마음을 남에겐 감춰 왔지
난 슬플 땐 그냥 맘껏 소리내 울고 싶어
나는 조금도 강하지 않아

언제부턴가 세상은 점점 빨리 변해만 가네
나의 마음도 조급해지지만
우리가 찾는 소중함들은 항상 변하지 않아
가까운 곳에서 우릴 기다릴 뿐

A Letter to Myself

Wanting to get back with my long lost self
I write myself a letter when all have gone asleep
I'd like to hug my true self with open arms
Who stands forlornly down there deep in my mind
I ask myself whenever I seem to lose strength
Are you still afraid of the journey ahead of you
And the answer is: _not anymore_

The world has been changing ever faster for some time
While it makes me impatient as well
Those precious objects of our quest are never changing
And they are waiting for us nearby

My friends no longer seem to talk about the heroes
From the story books that we used to love
Neither Gogh's fiery life nor Nietzsche's wounded wrath
Will be of help in the realities we face, they say
I wonder if all values are measured by promising jobs
Comfortable family life and a fat bank account
Does our happiness come from money and a large house
Fast cars, women, fame, and the social status
Am I left behind by myself lost and drifting astray
Though at times I find myself in doubt and fear as well
Hey buddy, who's looking at me with a worried look
We are all headed to the same place in the end

I have often hidden my feelings from others
But when I'm sad I feel like bawling with abandon
I am not strong in the least

The world has been changing ever faster for some time
While it makes me impatient as well
Those precious objects of our quest are never changing
And they are waiting for us nearby

Shin Hae Chul 1

Shin Hae Chul debuted in 1988 through a popular college music contest. Once he gained a foothold in the pop industry, he worked voraciously, writing, producing, and performing a great number of songs, not to mention organizing new bands and gigs, most notably Next (넥스트). His songs were often thoughtful and introspective, a tireless quest to discover one’s inner self and to take on the challenges of life. In short, he always pressed on existential matters. This was a notable departure from pop music’s usual subject of love and parting. Such earnest, conscientious stance on life, combined with the faithful and scandal-free persona of a good father and husband as well as a reliable friend to fellow musicians, earned him the rare reputation of a go to guy in the show business. It made his unexpected death in 2014 all the more heartbreaking for so many people both in and out of the music industry.

I Am Just Walking (그저 걷고 있는 거지) is a deeply introspective song from his 1995 project of Jungle Story soundtrack, a film featuring then newcomer Yoon Do Hyeon (윤도현). The song is a rather peculiar blend of quietly moving string instruments and traditional rock guitar accompanying an existential contemplation as to the narrator’s journey through life. Looking back on his past, he observes how he always strove to attain his elusive goals, which he now apparently looks on differently. He sees there is more to life than those easily definable goals, that he has to set his eye higher on greater things as he goes further on life’s road, as he tastes disillusionment with earlier rosy expectations. Above all, he realizes that what matters is that he is still walking. He seems to say that the true meaning of life is in the act of giving one’s best effort while being true to himself, his family and friends. He recites the short yet inspirational lyrics in barely audible whispers, creating a profoundly moving atmosphere almost like a meditative contemplation. It is a unique song in this single aspect alone, and it sounds especially poignant now in the aftermath of the tragedy that befell him.

Shin Hae Chul 2

A Letter To Myself (나에게 쓰는 편지) is another number in the same theme of a quest for the ultimate truth in life. Released in 1991 on his second album, it is a quintessential Shin Hae Chul song featuring his familiar innocent sounding voice. It brims with earnest enthusiasm of a wholesome youth as he faces life head on vowing not to be swept by the many formidable inhuman forces in the word. For the next two decades, he indeed lived heeding his own words he professed in this song and did not lose sight of the vows he made early on. His earnest and valiant journey is borne out by the emotional outpourings and eulogies by fellow artists after his death.

The unfortunate accident is even more poignant and heartbreaking when juxtaposed with the life affirming messages in his songs. It was a truly sad loss. The consolation may be that he indeed lived his short life to the full. Rest in peace, Shin Hae Chul.


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